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Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack

The conservative chief justice of Wisconsin's state Supreme Court is under fire after she said this week that meatpackers in Wisconsin who have contracted the coronavirus aren't "regular folks" like other residents of the state.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack made the comment during oral arguments conducted via teleconferencing on Tuesday in a suit brought by Republican lawmakers against Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home orders.


Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth, arguing on behalf of Evers, cited a surge in cases in Brown County as an example of why the orders were necessary. Roth said cases in Brown County "surged from just 60 to almost 800" over the course of two weeks. The outbreak was traced to the JBS Packerland meatpacking plant in the county, at which 300 workers were sickened by the coronavirus, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Roggensack interjected.

"These were due to the meatpacking, though," she said. "That's where Brown County got the flare. It wasn't just the regular folks in Brown County."


Outcry against Roggensack's comment followed the condemnation of comments made by her fellow conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley comparing Evers' stay-at-home orders to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

"It is shocking and deeply offensive that Justice Patience Roggensack would suggest that workers in meatpacking plants aren't 'regular folks' who deserve protection," United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1473, which represents meatpacking workers in the state, said in a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Democratic lawmakers also slammed Roggensack's comment, calling it elitist and out of touch.

Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen, who represents Brown County, told the Journal Sentinel that Roggensack's comment was laced with "elitism and ignorance."

Meatpacking plants across the country, workers at which are largely immigrants who say they fear they have no choice but to go to work, have been hit hard by coronavirus outbreaks.

Donald Trump has ordered meatpacking plants to stay open, despite the fact that the plants have become hot spots of virus transmission.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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